This is going to be quite a short post as I have mixed feelings about this. First off I’d like to disclose and thank Fujifilm UK for loaning me an X-Pro2 for around 3 months, I am grateful to them for that as without the loan I would not be able to write this post.
I’m just going to note down my thoughts good and bad about the X-Pro2 rather than write a full review on it. There are loads of reviews out there already, and I don’t think we need another. Let’s get to it then!
I saved my money for an X-Pro2. I waited and waited and waited, Fujifilm promised something amazing, they told us it was delayed because they only wanted to release it when they had something special, something different to show us. I respect that a lot, unlike Sony, Olympus who release a new camera every 9 months to boost sales, Fujifilm make us wait, they keep our old cameras alive with occasional firmware updates and sometimes huge boosts to the camera performance with a major update.
Eagerly anticipating the X-Pro2 (I had a good idea of when the release date was a few months before) I passed over on purchasing other items waiting to place my pre-order on an X-Pro2. I cannot hold back my disappointment when it was announced. Is this what we had waited 4 years for? The same camera with a 24Mpx sensor instead of the 16Mpx sensor? I looked and looked for something special, something exciting that had been promised due to the wait and I found nothing. It was pretty much exactly what I would have expected Fujifilm to announce 2 years ago when the release was delayed. Not only did I find nothing significantly new, but I found several things I’d expect in a pro level camera missing that really should be included by 2016. It’s not like they don’t have the technology to make it happen as these things are in several of their other cameras already. I’ll get onto those things later.
I do respect the desire of a small minority of users to keep the camera exactly as the X-Pro1. I love my X-Pro1, but I wanted an X-Pro2 to be able to do all the things I love about the X-Pro1 and be able to become a main camera for me instead of having to go and use an X-T1 (or now X-T2) when I need certain features. I do not want to have to use another camera, or worse buy another camera. OK, right now you’re saying, well why not just buy and X-T2 then, right? Let me explain. I bought into the Fujifilm system at the X100. Not only the way it works, the beautiful files, but the looks of the camera too. That might be stupid, but I love the way it looks, it makes me want to shoot with it, that makes me love shooting and love photography. Photography is a passion as much as it is a job. With the X-Pro1 I got that same look and feel of the X100. I like the viewfinder to the left so I can keep my eye open on what is happening and not be hidden behind the camera, that made it stand out for me against a dSLR and all the other boring mirrorless cameras out there. I chose the X-Pro1 over the NEX 7 and the OM-D – both of which I nearly purchased until I saw the X-Pro1. If I want a dSLR ‘style’ camera, I would buy a dSLR! The X-Pro1 gave me the same body as the X100 but with access to all the wonderful Fujifilm lenses. Simply, it became somewhat useable as a work tool as well. The X-T1 brought some incredibly useful features to the X-Series, it’s a great camera, but I don’t love it, I just use it. As daft as it sounds, I want to love a camera that I’ve purchased and spent a significant amount of money on.
So what’s missing?
Tilting-screen – I can’t tell you how I thought this was a daft idea 4 years ago. “Why would anyone need that?” I would ask. Well, go and shoot with a camera for a few months with a tilting screen and like me, you’ll not be able to shoot without it again. There are so many situations where this is useful.
This is my friend shooting with his Panasonic – I couldn’t get that shot. I couldn’t see my screen. Yes I could reach up and guess at it, take a load of images and hope that one was a, level and b, the correct composure, but if only the X-Pro2 had a tilting screen I would have had no issues.
Likewise here, even a PRO level Nikon D750 has a tilting screen. I had to lie on the ground to compose my image where my friend could simply stand over his camera and compose without getting covered in mud! Even worse over water! I don’t want to lug around a second camera just in case there is a shot I have to lie in the mud for, the whole point of mirrorless is to lighten the load!
I was shooting some interiors recently that required my to have the camera right up against the wall, I just couldn’t compose the images properly. It meant I had to switch to the X-T1.
Yes ok, I could WiFi liveview to my phone, but people who argue that do not shoot professionally in the real-world in either fast moving situations with a camera in your hand (try shooting handheld with the camera in one hand and your phone in the other please – let me know how you get on!), or where you have to shoot to a schedule and just get the images as quickly as possible. Flip the screen, job done! That is very different from setting the camera to WiFi mode, waiting for your phone to connect to the WiFi, opening the App, finding it not working, having to go back into the settings on your phone, then the camera has timed-out and starting all over again etc. etc.!
OK, so those small minority of purists are shouting at me now “I hate tilting screens, I don’t want one” well you know what… just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to use it. Fujifilm could have simply created a lock that would keep it in place in case you accidentally and offensively knocked your screen away from the camera – although in many years of shooting any camera with a tilting screen this has never happened to me, it could have meant both those wanting a fixed screen and those who love a tilting screen would have been equally satisfied. My own concerns over the reliability and durability of tilting/flipping screens has long been dispelled through much practice at dropping cameras and finding out that they survive pretty well! I know it may seem like a minor thing, but it is something that’s so incredibly useful once you start using one that not having one really makes the camera feel disabled. Even pro level dSLR’s are now getting them and I can’t think of a recently released mirrorless camera that doesn’t have one. I agree that if you’re a professional press photographer, a serious sports photographer, war zone of anything like that, another component that might just get broken isn’t desirable, but the X-Pro2 is NOT purchased and used by that type of person! 95% of them are purchased by amateurs. Ok, serious amateurs who might use them on a pro basis occasionally, but certainly not the type of person who would use a D5 for their work and expect the X-Pro2 to do that type of work.
Tethering – I use it a great deal. Anything I shoot in the studio is shot tethered, it is so useful to be able to see what you’re shooting straight to a computer – the rear screen is fine, but when you’re doing studio work there is nothing like being able to actually see it on the monitor. Shooting product, you can see that you’ve got it exactly right, shooting fashion, the team can see the images and make observations straight away. Not having this on their, by their own admission in the name, ‘pro’ level camera just makes no sense to me whatsoever when they clearly have the technology available. Again, something that would not offend anyone by it’s presence would have meant that I could buy an X-Pro2 and not have to sneak back to the X-T1 when I needed that feature, or not meant that I’d have to purchase an X-T2 to get the same image look (in terms of sensor) as the X-Pro2. Baffling.
With those two things I could have eventually overlooked all the other stuff that drives me slightly nuts about the X-Pro2.
So what does drive me most nuts about it?
Well for a start, the menu. What the hell is going on there? The old Fujifilm menu system had been refined and just about become right before they messed it all up again. Not only have things been randomly moved to different places (again!) but just using the menu is a total pain. I don’t know about you, but I adjust a setting, see how it goes, and then want to either adjust it again, or go back to how it was before. Sometimes this is a one-off thing, but quite often in the middle of a shoot I need a particular setting for a couple of images and then I’ll go back and put it back to how it was. With the new menu you have no idea where it is going to dump you into when you press Menu. Instead of remembering where you were it sends you off to either “My Menu” or some other random point. Aaaarrrgh!!! How hard is it just to remember where you were in the menu last time you were in it moments ago and take you back there? This needs a serious look at. It’s like different people have designed different parts of the menu system and then just stuck them all together – I’m sure I remember the same issues with the original X100 and they fixed that sort of thing long ago! Big backwards step.
The diopter for the viewfinder was always, and I mean always knocked when I picked up the camera. It is in the most vulnerable place ever. If you own this camera,you set it to where you need it to be and leave it alone, why does it need to be in a really prominent place where it can get knocked so easily? Definitely need to set this and then tape it up!
No USB charging. Again, available in other Fujifilm cameras, why not the X-Pro2?
Low light AF is not outstanding given the performance of other similar cameras, still work to be done here. It will focus, and does so accurately, but not the big leap forward some may have you believe.
There are a few other minor things, but I’m not going to waste my time nit-picking too much. These smaller things can be overlooked easily and no camera is 100% perfect.
Price point is a serious consideration. With the full-frame (I hate that term, but everyone understands it!) Sony a7 mk ii, Canon and Nikon full-frame dSLR’s available for cheaper, both the high end Panasonic GX8 (similar form factor, extremely well built, incredible AF + EVF) and Olympus Pen F significantly cheaper, the choice to buy an X-Pro2 if you’re moving into mirrorless is less obvious, if not seemingly outright expensive. I feel the price really needs to drop below £1000 to make it competitive in this ever crowded market where standards and performance are moving on quickly.
So after all that negativity, what do I actually like?!
Do not get me wrong, this is not a bad camera. Image quality of the sensor combined with the amazing Fujifilm lenses is superb. The 24Mpx sensor works well in delivering detail and allowing you to crop that bit further when you need to compared to the previous generation. Do we need 24Mpx? no. It is nice to have? yes, absolutely.
I like the fact that it retains the X-Pro1 look – yes, ironic I know after saying I want a tilting screen! but I know that could have been achieved without changing the overall feel of the camera.
I like the control for changing the focus point quickly, although it did take me a while to actually remember it was there and start using it!
I like WiFi (I badgered Fujifilm for years about this!) love to be able to share images with friends and allow them to share with their friends direct from my phone in the moment without having to take a crappy image on my iPhone.
The EVF is superb – I never did get into using the OVF despite trying many times over the years on my OVF ‘enabled’ Fujifilm cameras.
AF is good, I’m not convinced it is significantly better than the X-T1 in reality however. I still found it hunting in low light and as hard as I tried I could not get it to track seagulls with any significant degree of success greater than the X-T1. My style of shooting does not require blazing fast AF, and if it did then I would buy a dSLR. There are apparently improvements coming to the AF tracking system, so that may improve things further. In good light AF is very snappy and unlikely to cause you to be annoyed by it even coming from a dSLR unless you’re doing serious sports photography. As always, it is very much dependent on the lens you use. The old XF 35mm 1.4 and XF 60mm are a bit creaky, but any of the more recent lenses are pretty quick.
Dual SD card slots – on the side too – spot on!
ISO dial – I know there have been some complaints about this, but I like it. It’s easily readable if necessary and I never found an issue changing the ISO and it’s all but impossible to change by accident.
There is the extra power pin on the hotshoe for flash, so you can use the EF-X8 flash from the X-T1.
I really don’t want people to read this and think it’s just a rant, I totally admit it might seem like that, but I want to a, bring some perspective to the X-Pro2 against a backdrop of wild praise without criticism, although you will find the professional reviews mentioning many of the same things as I do, the professional reviews often do not use a camera as a daily photographer, rather as a reviewer. So things like tethering are not so much of a factor to them, and menu systems less of an issue when you’re not in the middle of a professional shoot holding everyone up as you mess about trying to find the right setting! I get a lot of people contacting me, many asking me about Fujifilm cameras, but also a lot of people who have bought the cameras and share their frustrations with me (often hoping I can find them a solution!). I can tell you that I’m certainly far from alone in my thoughts as I’ve written here on the X-Pro2. Some people don’t have the platform to share these thoughts on, and some just won’t share them publicly for whatever reason.
Let me be clear, I do like the X-Pro2. If all you’re doing is something like street photography then I’m sure it works great for you, but if all you want is a street camera then buy an X100 series, or the X-Pro1, they will do the same thing as the X-Pro2 if that is what you are after. If this had been maybe 3 years ago I would have been praising it for what it can do, but things move on. It is absolutely not a bad camera, it is a great camera, it has simply been unnecessarily limited to a small market and a certain type of person that I feel means it misses out on what it could have been. It could have been my only camera, it could have been the only camera for many people. Especially considering what else is available that can do everything at the £1349 asking price, it should be been able to be that without having to spend another £1399 on the X-T2 to get the limited extra features necessary to make it a serious work camera. Unless you’re doing a very specific type of professional photography, this does seem to push the X-Pro2 into the “nice to have” rather than the “need to own” category, and that’s a luxury many can’t afford.
I thought if I kept hold of it longer I would grow to love it and forget that it had been crippled in certain areas, I delayed sending it back to Fujifilm to give me time to grow to love it and forget about what’s missing, but it never happened like it did with the X100 series and X-Pro1. The X-T1 is still the camera I need to go to for professional work if I want to shoot with Fujifilm. I truly wish the X-Pro2 could have become that instead – giving me the best of both worlds, a camera I love and a camera I can use every day for everything. Is that too hard of an ask?
I waited long enough for the X-Pro2 to become my main camera and give me what I needed for the next few years. I held back on deciding which direction to take, but given what I’ve seen I’ve now made my choice for the foreseeable future. If I can’t have a main camera that I love, then at their current level of affordability and features for the professional photographer I’m moving to a combination of dSLR and mirrorless ‘full-frame’ cameras for day-to-day work. I’ll still keep my X-Pro1 and XF35mm for purely personal work as there is something particularly special about that combination and the sensor in the X-Pro1.
Head to my portfolio to see a selection of images shot on the X-Pro2. I did shoot some professional work on the X-Pro2, but I can’t (yet) share those images.